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Posts Tagged ‘MMORPG’s’

pg_logo_blog1The game comes from a small but successful developer in Tokyo called Cold Breath.  Kentaro Ishizaka, Cold Breath’s CEO, leads this company in ways that can only be done in a company Cold Breath’s size.

In June 2003, Ishizaka, a student of Information Technology as an undergraduate, formed Cold Breath with college buddy, Shingo Inoue, who is now the company’s Director.  They focused on developing Flash Games, including Livly Island which was a massive hit in Japan and continues to be successful.  You can find it in on Sony’s Japanese portal, So-net.  It has become one Sony’s most stalwart generators of revenue for its online business.  Livly island was livlydesigned by Monster Soup (a 3 person enterprise, includng Ishizaka’s younger brother).  Cold Breath did the technical development.

The quality which makes Ishizaka unique is his ability to act as artist, technical developer, and game designer.  He famously sketches his visual ideas for games constantly.  And his love of games (table top and video) has fed his unique vision for Cold Breath’s style of game-play.  It was Ishizaka that devised Puppet Guardian’s game-play, with its one-of-a-kind board game/MMORPG combination,  as well as the innovative and robust Cold Gate technical platform upon which it is deployed.

The game’s feeling of reality combined with its marvelous animation are a credit to the entire team, but are born of Ishizaka’s vision and ability to technically create a real screen experience that comes very close to matching his orignal imagination of that experience.  This is, of course, the quality that set Walt Disney apart: the ability to technically execute, in an original and effective way, a richly-imagined world.

During the course of Puppet Guardian’s development, Ishizaka lead a team of six Cold Breath employees: three designers, one person focused on building the server and another focued on deploying the tools needed to manage the site.  It was Ishizaka himself who coded the entire site.  And the game is an incarnation of his striking vision.

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One of the advantages of Puppet Guardian is that it is extremely easy to play.  There is no technology to download and launch.  There is no need for players to do anything other than register and start (except maybe upgrade their version of Flash).  This is an advantage of the game certainly, but it does introduce the potential for limitation in terms of what players can experience as they play.  There are some games that ask players to download and deploy software in order to play. This is inconvenient but in some cases allows the game to dynamically generate unique playing environments based on the players experienceboomdiz_avatar or identity.  Puppet Guardian does not do this.

Fortunately the designers at Cold Breath and their engineering counterparts at Artifact have come up with a neat solution:  The Puppet Guardian database understands which towers you have traveled as a player and how often you have traveled them.  It manages to log your experience so that the game can show you a different set of monsters, items, and therefore experiences, the more you play the game.  So while the environments are not unique to you or uniquely generated, they do change based on your experience so that your experiences are always fresh and new.  They seem unique.

I think this is a nice compromise that the game offers. It preserves the game’s easy access and ease to play with a rich and fresh playing experience.

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The game has a  theme that was conceived and written by its creator, Kentaro Ishizaka.  The theme is a story of love and sacrifice with a powerful villain and some extraordinary magic.  It is common in role playing games to be organized in such a way that players do not experience the game in a single straight line with a clear start and finish. The experience of playing these games is more circular or even random, so the notion of a story (linear, a clear start and finish, etc.) isn’t all that important.  Also, there’s the obvious point that game players are concerned with a lot of things as they happen during the action of the game, but a story line isn’t usually one of them.  Despite all of this, there is something about Puppet Guardan’s “back-story”, as gamers like to call them, that I really like.  And its unusual setting (a castle floating in the sky with eight towers, each containing a different territory with a unique climates, plant life, and creatures) begs an explanation.

monument

In the game, click on these stone monuments to read the story.

Before getting to that explanation, I should point out that it is presented as a narrative on the stone monuments found in each tower lobby and on the castle grounds where players start the game when they first log in.  Nothing more than a partial account is what you’ll find on the monuments, but you do get a flavor for the story and a feeling for its characters.  The monuments have been inscribed by Org, the leader of the game’s lands.

The story goes something like this.  Org and his wife Yun ruled the lands now sealed in the towers.  These lands were besieged by Shasura an evil wizard of utmost power.  This wizard killed Yun,

The Fossil Org guarding the tomb where Yun is perserved

The Fossil Org guarding the tomb where Yun is perserved

despite her own prodigious wizardry.  Org was absolutely devoted to his wife and is now committed to her resurrection.  He has planted the Tree of Life which must grow for 1000 years to produce a single fruit. But that fruit has the power to bring new life to the deceased if it touches their lips.  This is the tree that has enveloped the floating castle in its roots.  Org has also turned himself to stone for 1000 years using the evil eye of the Basilisk so that he can awaken when the fruit has ripened sufficiently to deliver its grace.

So why is the castle suspended in the heavens?  Org has done this as a measure of protection from Shasura.  Another of Org’s defenses was to conjure 10,000 Puppet Guardians and inscribe their souls on the Castle walls.  You can see them in the back of the courtyard.  These guardians are to materialize when the castle is beleaguered by its enemies (Shasura and his lackeys). The guardians are intended to protect the preserved body of Yun and the castle.  Into each tower, Org has sealed a memory of one of the territories in his kingdom.  These memories are what he recalls of his travels with Yun. One has a feeling that this is another way to preserve Yun, or at least the memory of the times they shared.

We players have avatars that are the Guardians.  As such, we are tasked with increasing their ability to do battle by acquiring arms and magic in order to better guard against an assault from Shasura. This is accomplished by traversing the lands sealed in the towers.  And there you have the story of Org, Yun and their guardians.

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